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Government cold on high-speed but existing services reach record punctuality

The jump to new high speed services has been thrown into doubt by the government, questioning high speed rail's green credentials, as existing service attain record levels of punctuality, with 89.9% of trains arriving on time in 2007/8.

Despite pledging to begin looking at High Speed services in 2005, rail minister Tom Harris suggests that new high speed services will not be sufficiently green to justify.

In a letter to Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies, Harris wrote, "The main challenge for the UK's transport network is congestion and reliability, not journey times and connectivity. This is reflected in the priorities of businesses and passengers.

"The argument that high-speed rail is a 'green option' does not necessarily stand up to close inspection. Increasing the maximum speed of a train from 200 kph to 350 kph leads to a 90% increase in energy consumption. In exchange, it cuts station-to-station journey time by less than 25% and door-to-door journey time by even less."

Government information from the suggests that According to Network Rail's preliminary results, train punctuality is at its highest ever, with 89.9% of trains arriving on time in the year 2007/8, and by the end of April 2008 this figure had exceeded 90% for the first time since measurements began in 1992.

Unveiling the results, Network Rail's chairman Ian McAllister said: "Overall, the last year has been a good one for Network Rail and the industry as a whole, with passengers seeing a better service.

"Train performance is at an all time high, a £4bn investment programme has been delivered, delays caused by the infrastructure have been cut and costs have also been reduced.

"No form of transport is safer than rail and record levels of investment are being pumped into the network, with a doubling of spending on schemes designed to build a bigger, better railway to help meet the growing demands of passengers and freight users.

"In addition, lessons have been learnt following the engineering overruns at New Year. Changes have been made to make the planning and execution of such big improvement schemes more robust.

"Alongside maintaining high levels of safety and train punctuality, Network Rail has continued to make savings, with the costs of running the railway seeing a further £178m reduction, in real terms, this year."

Network Rail also posted a profit (after tax) of £1.2bn, up from £1bn compared to 2006/7, from a turnover of £5.96bn, an increase of £165M against the previous year.

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